WaterWise Urban Ecology & Art Camp

A project-based art and environment camp that allows local youth to research the importance of our local watersheds and respond through the creation of street murals

GOALS
EXPLORATION. Participants must be provided a venue within which they can pursue their individual interests while learning new things. They just won’t care otherwise. Making the Exploration phase fun, engaging, and challenging is critical. Equally important is giving them some ownership of the process. Less top-down teaching, and more passive guiding and listening, following and facilitating. This can only be done with good advanced planning, an established venue, an established participant group and a qualified discovery-oriented guide/teacher.

DISCOVERY. This happens to one degree or another when an individual engages something with a question. But discovery can be elevated and enriched by having the right charge, question, and tools to facilitate the inquiry process that follows. Ultimately, discovery generates a feedback loop with one’s environment. The problem with adults that are the product of the 20th century is that many believe that discovery is the end game. So, with WaterWise, it is critical to nurture the feedback loop, to encourage critical reasoning with non-rhetorical questions. It is also critical to preserve the new host of questions generated by the inquiry process…and not simply as part of measuring the effectiveness of the program, but for other explorers to build on.

SHARING. A platform for sharing what is found is the most critical part of growing an idea. For WaterWise, the sharing occurs through a street mural. The more the participants can be directly involved in creating the thing that is shared, the greater their sense of ownership. From there things can spread like gentle wildfire. Creativity can result in greater participant input. Our goal is to make the mural a monument to process, discovery, and community and to make the area safe enough to involve kids in the painting of this mural.

WHAT HAPPENED AT CAMP
What do our local waterways tell us about ourselves and the health of our environment?  This was the core question that local youth living along 6th Street in Charlottesville sought to answer as a part of WaterWise, a month-long camp that explored our local streams and used art to respond. Working with local urban ecologists, they found a beautiful diversity of plants, animals, and objects that tell the unique store of this neighborhood. From that they worked with a local artist to design a mural that will tell this story to the community.

OUTCOMES
3 4-hour camp days in July
12 hours exploring local creeks and making art
50 species of plants and animals identified
35 photographs and drawings showing what we found
Artist-designed mural based on the drawings and images of the students
Greater understanding of the neighborhood and its connection to the environment

REFLECTIONS
“There were many positive results of the program. WaterWise served as a critical step in providing a place where Voice could be heard in a community that doesn’t get much say in this town. The kids took a risk, got involved in something new, and benefited greatly from it. They pushed personal boundaries to develop new ideas and engage new people.

The group explored the very streams that carry all the water that leaves their rooftops, steps, roads, yards and sidewalks. They discovered the results of storm water run off and synthesized valuable information pertaining to their connections to the stream…for the first time.

Having variety in the age of the participants proved to be beneficial. From the older folks organizing and running the program to the youngest of participants, everyone had unique experiences that enriched the discovery and interpretation process in this unique watershed.

Lastly, I will say that having a program that is an effective partnership of public and private entities is invaluable. WaterWise served as a venue that furthered the independent mission of all groups and individuals involved. My organization, Center for Urban Habitats, strives to advance biodiversity education and conservation in urban areas. Projects like WaterWise create the context where this sort of mission actually meets the pavement.”
Devin Floyd, Center for Urban Habitats

The group explored the very streams that carry all the water that leaves their rooftops, steps, roads, yards and sidewalks. They discovered the results of storm water run off and synthesized valuable information pertaining to their connections to the stream…for the first time.”

– Devin Floyd

Photo Gallery

PARTICIPANTS

7 Charlottesville students
Aaron Eichorst – Lead Artist
Devin Floyd – Urban Ecologist, Center for Urban Habitats
Martin Johnson – Urban Conservation Specialist, TJSWCD
Lauriston DaMitz – Education and Outreach Coordinator, TJSWCD
Dan Frisbee – Environmental and Stormwater Program Coordinator, City of Cville
Emily Dreyfus – Community Organizer, PHAR/Legal Aid Justice Center
Amber Ellis – Watershed Restoration Manager, James River Association
Alisa Hefner – Senior Designer, Skeo Solutions